MINERAL COUNTY - Both Mineral County teams are at home tonight as Keyser hosts Petersburg in a regularly scheduled matchup, and Frankfort welcomes North Marion in a game scheduled just a week ago as a trip to Elkins fell off the Falcons' schedule due to the COVID-map.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Correspondent
MINERAL COUNTY - Both Mineral County teams are at home tonight as Keyser hosts Petersburg in a regularly scheduled matchup, and Frankfort welcomes North Marion in a game scheduled just a week ago as a trip to Elkins fell off the Falcons’ schedule due to the COVID-map.
Keyser and Frankfort both currently sit in the top eight of the West Virginia class AA playoff ratings, with Keyser ranked seventh and Frankfort ranked second, meaning that if the playoffs started today, both would host a home playoff game.  What happens down the final three-week stretch will dictate playoff eligibility and rankings for both teams.
Considering that the final game of the regular season, the Mineral Bowl, held this year in Short Gap, is guaranteed to result in a loss for either the Falcons or Golden Tornado, every game is of utmost importance from here on out.
In Petersburg, Keyser faces a familiar Potomac Valley Conference for what will be the 49th ever meeting between the two schools. The Black and Gold holds a 43-4-1 record over the Vikings all-time and has won 13-straight, 14 of the last 15, and 36 of the last 38 matchups between the two schools.  
Petersburg is fresh off a 42-20 defeat at Frankfort last Friday, but overall, the Vikings are 4-2, and currently ranked seventh in the West Virginia class A playoff ratings.
“While I know they went back to the spread, it looks like they’re running the ball more than they’re throwing it. But, they’ve got a quarterback that when they pass puts the ball where it needs to be, so they’re going to be an admirable opponent,” Keyser coach Derek Stephen stated.  “When they were under Coach Board, they were really up and coming, and I think their new coach has them heading in the right direction.”
From Keyser’s perspective, things are also heading in the right direction, in terms of continuous improvement with the offense firing on all cylinders and the defense improving.  The Golden Tornado also have largely been able to avoid the injury bug.
“We’ve got our normal bumps and bruises and wears and tears because we’re close to the end of the season, but no major injuries coming out of next week. I think we’re focused and ready to go. We explained to them last week that we need to have a playoff mentality coming forward. With the four-game minimum requirement, there’s going to be teams that only get four games in that have a better chance of making the playoffs over a team that has 10 games in,” Stephen explained.
According to Stephen, “We’re just trying to make them focus and play every game like it’s a playoff game, because we don’t know if we’re going to make the playoffs, we don’t know any of that right now, so we’re just taking it one game at a time with that playoff mentality.”
Despite the decided advantage Keyser has all-time over Petersburg, Stephen and the rest of the Golden Tornado staff are taking nothing for granted, “Petersburg’s going to be a pretty tough team coming in, they’ve got some confidence.  One thing that’s going to help them is they just saw Frankfort in the Wing-T. We’re a little different in the Wing-T in that we spread it out a little more, but having the chance to see the guards and that kind of action in the backfield gives them an advantage.”
In North Marion, Frankfort faces an opponent they hold a 2-0 advantage on all-time, having outscored the Huskies 90-40 in those two matchups. Frankfort defeated North Marion at North Marion 55-27 in 2012, and then 35-13 in Short Gap in 2013.  
North Marion comes into the contest with a record of 5-1 and a current sixth place rating in the West Virginia class AA playoff race. The Huskies have defeated Preston (32-0), Elkins (33-15), Lincoln (41-20), Chapmanville (43-0), and Lewis County (35-8).  North Maron’s only loss is to eighth rated Fairmont Senior (41-21).
“We’ve been in several tough ball games this year that could’ve went either way. I feel this is without a doubt the toughest opponent we will have faced so far this year,” Frankfort coach Kevin Whiteman stated. “I think it creates a great atmosphere with two ranked teams who have one loss.  There’s already been a lot of excitement this week getting prepared leading up to Friday night.
With a tight playoff race ahead for both teams and really all of class AA, both squads have a complete understanding that the stakes are very high in this contest heading down the stretch.  It is, after all, a matchup of two teams in the top six of their classification.
“I think both teams know the importance of the game and that we will need to come out ready from the start.  I’ve watched a lot of tape on them this week and they do a lot of good things in all three phases of the game,” Whiteman expressed. They are going to bring that spread offense at us utilizing the pass and run and they are very good with their run-pass-option.  I think they are going to be one of the better lines we’ve faced this year too.”
According to Whiteman, “They get off the ball fairly quick and are aggressive until the whistle. Number two is very speedy and athletic and they like to get him the ball.  They definitely have a well-rounded attack. Defensively, we will see an even front with a 4-4 type defense.”
Whiteman and the Frankfort coaching staff know they face a formidable opponent with a quality coaching staff, and there’s a real sense the game could go down to the wire.  A lot of preparation has gone into the contest, despite the late scheduling of the game.
“We definitely have to minimize our mistakes and turnovers to win the game. I truly think it could come down to a final possession in the fourth quarter.  They will definitely do some good things and we have to keep fighting and battle back. They have some good experienced coaches who will do a very good job preparing them and I can assure you we have put in a lot of time and work since Saturday morning.  It should be a great night.”